Nolan Taylor is just a sophomore, but as Keller’s only returning starter, he’s helping lead the team both in scoring and heart.
Taylor, a 6-6, 230-pound power forward, started last year as a freshman and has been one reason the Indians have taken a role as a district champion contender early into the 4-5A season.
The football player is just focusing on basketball now, and Taylor said his freshman year has been a big help to him now that the remaining four starters and eight total seniors have graduated.
“Starting as a freshman has been a big help,” Taylor said. “It’s helped me lead the team a little because I have experience in different situations. We lost a lot of leadership and that can hurt the team, but I can take up some of the lead.”
Keller head coach, Randall Durant, said Taylor may not be a vocal leader, but he’s stepped up. “He’ll grow into it,” Durant said.
Taylor has high expectations for himself and the team, saying he hasn’t quite performed up to what he feels he can do. He said he needs to expand his game a little.
Not long after he made that statement, Taylor went out and matched his season and career-best scoring game, scoring 24 points to help Keller beat Southlake Carroll in the Byron Nelson Classic championship game. He had also scored 24 early in the season against Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt.
Durant isn’t quite as critical, saying Taylor is doing what he knew he was capable of doing.
“He’s had quite a learning curve,” Durant said of seeing Taylor as a freshman. “He’s learned the speed of the game and he got in shape. We knew what kind of character he had. He has the skill and character to be a really good. His ceiling is very high.”
Skill is something which will only get better as Taylor gains experience.
With his size, Taylor can easily score inside. But, Durant said he can shoot as well as anyone on the team, too. Taylor takes great pride in the fact he hit two three’s in the Birdville game.
Because of the attention Taylor draws, he’s also becoming more of threat as his passing improves.
“When I draw double-teams, it gives me an opportunity for others to get the ball,” Taylor said. “I can dish off to other teammates that are open.”
His passing is one aspect which Taylor has worked on over the summer and it’s paying off.
“He’s such a good passer,” Durant said. “He’s done a lot of work this summer to improve his game. He’s serious about it, which isn’t a surprise.”
“Every day (in the summer) was a training session,” Taylor said. “I learned to handle the ball better this year and I can handle the press,” he said.
Now, Taylor said, he’ll continue to work on improving his free throws.
“I have to get to the line more this year,” Taylor said, adding that he wants to improve his percentage. “One thing I’ve had to work on is finishing after contact.”
Personally, Taylor said his goals are more team-oriented, including going at least three rounds deep into the playoffs. Last year’s quadruple overtime loss in the second round to El Paso Bel Air still sticks in Taylor’s mind.